Raising Smoking Age from 18 to 21 Would Not Reduce Underage Smoking, Editorials Say
Several recent editorials have said that a proposal to amend an anti-smoking bill (AB 1453) to include a provision that would raise the state's legal smoking age from 18 to 21, making it the highest in the nation, would not reduce youth smoking. Summaries of the editorials on the amendment, sponored by Assembly member Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood), appear below.
Sacramento Bee: Tobacco products are so widely sold that it is difficult to enforce age restrictions, whether it is 18 or 21, the editorial says. If age restrictions were actually effective in preventing tobacco use among teenagers, the problem of underage smoking already "would have been solved in California and around the nation." Anti-smoking campaigns, however, have been effective in curbing youth tobacco use. Such efforts "seem likely to prove more effective than raising the age when it's legal to start killing yourself with tobacco," the editorial concludes (Sacramento Bee, 6/6).
Contra Costa Times: Koretz's proposal "is not likely to prevent anyone from buying cigarettes" and is "insulting to people who are old enough to fight in wars, sign contracts and vote," the editorial states. Smoking rates have declined in California, but raising the legal age could "derail" efforts to further reduce tobacco use, including raising tobacco taxes to fund anti-smoking education campaigns. The editorial states that not every social problem requires legislation to address it, concluding, "That is particularly so when the law is likely to be useless and wastes the efforts of lawmakers who should be spending all of their time on solving California's severe budget crisis" (Contra Costa Times, 6/6).
- Ventura County Star: Raising the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 would most likely "not do what it intends," much as setting the minimum drinking age at 21 has "hardly kept minors from obtaining alcohol," the editorial states. Given that the American Lung Association has said there is a "lack of evidence" that raising the minimum age would reduce underage smoking, the editorial notes it would be "more effective" to enforce existing laws. "That should also be a guiding principle of Mr. Koretz's proposal. To raise the legal age ... without providing adequate enforcement will merely create a vaster smoking underground," the editorial concludes (Ventura County Star, 6/5).